A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hindsight is 20/20, and if I was in the crowd whom Moses is talking to in Deuteronomy 11, and knew what I know now, I'd have to call Moses out on his b.s. Of course, I'd probably be stoned for blasphemy, too.

Chapter 11 is basically an appeal to the Israelites, and it can be summed up real quick. Follow these commandments that I give you; and you will be blessed. Don't follow them; your life is going to suck.

Even if I'm trying to be sympathetic to these guys in the Old Testament, I can't. It's just so easy to see through their facade. This is really just politics of fear. "If you're not with us; you're against us."

But that's cool, I have read this in the past, but not as critical. Now, as I read the Bible I am increasingly amazed that people think this is the "greatest book of all time," especially when it is most emphatically NOT. Shakespeare is better than this. Hell, reading Hegel's ramblings on the Zeitgeist is better than this!

But still I trudge on. Next time, Yahweh asks the Israelites to drink blood during their sacrifices.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

You can Digg my blog, but can you get your Facebook out of Myspace, You ... TUBE!

Friday, January 22, 2010

I've mentioned before that Deuteronomy is a collection of sermons from Moses to the Israelites.

Deuteronomy, Chapter 8 is a reminder to the Israelites that if they forget Yahweh for what He has helped them achieve, then He will chastize them.

As the closing sentences say, "And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God."

Chapter 9 is a sort of pep rally to the Israelites just prior to invading other lands. Moses warns the Israelites of "nations greater then their's" and of even MORE giants! But they shouldn't fear, because they have Yahweh on their side, and the Ark of the Covenant, and they shall surely prevail.

Moses justifies their invasion. I paraphrase this, but I encourage you to the chapter for yourself. "It's not for our own pride or for our own benefit, but because these nations are an affront to Yahweh, and it is only through their destruction that Yahweh can deliver on his Holy promise of delivering them to their land of milk and honey."

Moses reminded the people about how they have strayed. "While I was up on the Mount for 40 days and 40 nights, eating only bread and water, and Yahweh was writing His commandments, you were down here worshipping an idol of Ba'al, and corrupting yourselves! Yahweh wanted to destroy you then, but I interceded and convinced Him not to do so."

In Chapter 10 Moses continues his historical narrative, basically reminiscing on the how the ark of the covenant was created. He sort of takes the credit for building the ark. But if we look back in Exodus 37:1, it's a man named Bezaleel. Moses also seems to get it wrong about the death of Aaron and where he was buried. In Deuteronomy, Aaron was buried in a place called Mosera; but in Numbers Aaron was buried on Mount Hor.

Moses closes chapter 10 with a series of problematic statements. He says that the only requirement he asks of the Israelites is that they fear Yahweh, to keep His commandments, and to remember that the heavens and the earth belong to Him. We should be kind to strangers, praise Yahweh because he is above all other gods, and we should swear by His name.

There's so many technicalities on that little bit. Depending on where you read in the Bible, the Earth belongs to either God, humans, or the devil. Being kind to strangers isn't necessarily a Judeo-Christian trait if you've read the Bible. And of course, we're not supposed to swear by the name of this particular god.

We see here in these chapters that Yahweh can be reasoned with, if we stroke His ego. Wait. Isn't that the key to all Abrahamic religions? Isn't that what Jews, Christians, and Muslims say that the whole purpose of life is? It's to worship. It's to stroke the ego of Yahweh, or Allah. Worship is that, and it is also a surrender to God. Right?

I remember when I was a Christian. The words I spoke were meant to stroke the ego of God, but the experience in so doing was a surrender. There's nothing wrong with the surrender, per se. It's the context of how we do it that is problematic. The surrender is an experience that can be had by all humans. Surrendering of course, leaves us in a vulnerable state. The words that we say in this condition, be it "Praise Jesus", "Hare Krishna", "Om nama shivaya" or "Allahu Ackbar" are utterly separate from the experience itself. It is only afterward that we internalize the meaning of these words. We somehow attribute their implications to the spiritual experience itself. If you don't believe me, try it yourself.

So, in the words of Moses, "Don't be so stiff-necked and proper. Rather, circumcise the foreskin of your heart." (Deuteronomy 10:16) :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Above: Hey, they were only doing what they thought God wanted them to do.

I like Deuteronomy, Chapter 7. There's so many things wrong with it - historically, intellectually, and ethically. There's even a little bit of prophecy in there.

Yahweh's prophecies were that 1) the Israelites will conquer seven great nations (Canaanites, Amorites, etc.), and 2) that the Israelites (and their cattle!) will NEVER become infertile. Later on, in Joshua, we find that the Yahweh was simply unable to deliver on the first prophecy. And of course, people of Hebrew descent have the same rate of being barren as any other human.

Historically, this chapter implies that there was more than 20 million people in the region at this time. The archaeological evidence does not support that at all. In fact, anyone that thinks the Bible is inerrant is just plain wrong.

Intellectually, there are a few contradictions:

1) Yahweh tells the Israelites not to intermarry with these other tribes. Moses, of course, is an exception.
2) Yahweh also instructs the Israelites to kill strangers; but a few chapters later in Deuteronomy 10, Israelites are asked to be kind to strangers "because they were strangers in Egypt."

And ethically, this chapter is just a nightmare. It advocates:

1) The killing of strangers who worship a different god.
2) Killing all of the inhabitants (including women and children) of the lands they conquer.
3) Intolerance (don't intermarry, destroy relics of the other people's religions, etc.)

So, that's Chapter 7 in a nutshell. I wonder what an apologist would say? That it's okay in that cultural context and that time period?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Above: An image from www.thebricktestament.com, a young man posts the Law on his gates to keep the Law strong in Israelite society.

After going over the Second Commandment in Chapter 4, Moses reviews all of the Commandments in Chapter 5, and then in Chapter 6 he talks about how to keep the law going. This is basically what Deuteronomy seems to be: a series of sermons from Moses to the Israelites. It's like the pastor's playbook.

In the first three chapters, they reviewed their time in the wilderness. More information was added to it then in Exodus and Numbers. They fought a lot of giants, and conquered off a lot of Canaanite tribes, for example. Now, Moses is reviewing the Commandments with a little more depth, and it's written more like a sermon.

"... when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders ...", sounds like Moses is talking directly to people.

And I think I've already laid out the problems with the Ten Commandments (i.e. women are property, it's okay to own slaves, punishment doesn't fit the crime, etc.).

Chapter 6 is another sermon from Moses, and it is about how to keep the law going strong in Israelite society: which is basically to remind everyone about it and keep talking about it. It sounds like something the Communists were famous for, and what EVERY society does: good ol' fashioned propaganda.

Except, instead of talking about the revolution, or democracy, or freedom; the Israelites were concerned about keeping the Law. What steps did they take? Here's the rundown:

1. Teach it to the children.
2. Talk about it in the privacy of your home or out in public, when sitting, lying down, or standing up.
3. Bind copies of the Law to your hands and on your head.
4. Put it on door posts and to the gates of your house.

Perhaps the last two seem extreme, but we've seen it. The Red Star or the American flag hat; the Che Guevara poster on the wall. The Israelites can be said to have been the first people to record this behavior.

Next time, we discuss bad archaeology in Old Testament.